Is the 2009 Ride Really Over?
Philip Fuller, President
Not quite yet but, what a ride it has been! Fortunately VEXIS has weathered the storm quite well indeed. I could not be more proud of our team and our results for 2009. Our exceptional operational efficiency and our unwavering commitment to quality, service, and value has afforded us consistently high marks in customer service, sales growth of nearly 55% over 2008, and a dramatic expansion of our manufacturer relationships that now officially include Avaya, Convergys, Genesys, and Syntellect. Furthermore, in a time when many companies seem to be contracting their workforces, VEXIS has continued to create new jobs as we expanded our labor force by over 30% in 2009.
We know that these results are extraordinary in the face of these unprecedented economic hardships, and we have you, our loyal customers, to thank. We are proud to have the opportunity to serve you all and we feel very fortunate that through your trust and confidence in VEXIS we have been able to achieve these incredible results. We are confident that better economic days are on the horizon for all of our customers around the world and as we prepare to close the book on 2009 we are looking forward to helping you plan and meet your contact center goals and objectives for 2010.
As a first step in your planning for 2010 I would ask that you please take a minute to read the articles that the VEXIS management team has prepared for this newsletter. We always strive to include relevant topics and information that we think are useful to all individuals, not just those who handle the technical aspects of the contact center but also business users who are looking for ideas to improve application performance and analytics. Please follow these links to read more about new solutions and information that can help improve your business.
- To find out more about our new Gold Certification with Avaya and how we can provide expanded solutions on your Avaya products check out David Baker’s article.
- Read Jacob Martin’s article to see how you can leverage Extensible and Portable Applications for Your Growing Business
- In his ongoing series Troubleshooting Tactics – Part 2 Brian Smith expands on the important principles that could help save you and your company extended system outages by providing tips on how to quickly isolate problems when they occur.
- Though it couldn’t be more CLR (that’s Clear to you and me) Richard Wolff is bursting to tell you about the latest Envoy® product updates. Here’s a hint it starts with a dot and ends with a big net!
- Finally Andrea McCasland talks about Speech Enabling Your IVR and how you can leverage speech to improve your customer’s self service experience.
- Also if you have time, I recommend you go back and check out some of the other great articles that your VEXIS team has provided in previous newsletters, I promise it will be worth your time.
Thanks again for entrusting VEXIS to deliver and support your contact center solutions in 2009. On behalf of the entire VEXIS Systems team, I wish you, your families, colleagues, and company a great holiday season and happy, healthy, prosperous 2010!
IMPORTANT RENEWAL REMINDER
Your annual renewal fee provides the most cost-effective method for supporting your systems.
Please make it a priority to remit your annual support payment on-time to ensure there is no lapse in service.
Annual Support Renewal payments are due by December 31, 2009.
VEXIS Expands Solutions Portfolio
David Baker, Vice President of Sales
In an effort to bring the best value-added solutions to our customers, VEXIS recently became a Gold Member of the AVAYA Developers Connect Group. Though VEXIS has worked with the AVAYA platform for many years we have never consummated an official relationship between our two companies. The Gold Member designation allows us official preferred status in the Dev Connect community for those seeking application solutions on the AVAYA voice portal platform.
AVAYA currently serves at least 60% of the PBX market in North America and its recent acquisition of the Nortel Enterprise Solutions business unit will further solidify AVAYA’s top ranking in the PBX market. We believe our Gold partnership with AVAYA will enable VEXIS to have a more cohesive solution for those customers that prefer a complete AVAYA contact center.
As a VEXIS customer, our ongoing commitment is to provide you with more strategic options when it comes to your next IVR platform. In addition to AVAYA, we also offer solutions on Genesys, Convergys (Intervoice & Edify), and Syntellect (Envox). When it comes to replacing, enhancing or expanding your existing IVR, Speech or CTI platform VEXIS wants to be your long-term trusted advisor and ‘go to’ reliable partner.
Through key alliances with the most respected industry leading companies, VEXIS is uniquely poised to recommend the right solution for you based on both your current and future needs. Just like snowflakes, no two customers are exactly alike and by being able to offer such a wide variety of solutions VEXIS is able to configure platform solutions that will meet each customer’s unique requirements.
Please take a moment to read the AVAYA press release on our website for more information on this announcement or reach out to your VEXIS Account Consultant should you have any further questions. As always, thank you for your continued business.
Enjoy your holiday season!
Extensible and Portable Applications for Your Growing Business
Jacob Martin, Vice President of Operations and Solution Services
A great deal of consideration is given to selecting the right platform for your contact center. Your IT Infrastructure and Telecom groups are responsible for choosing systems that meet your company’s security, performance, reliability, and other technical requirements. You’ll be pleased to know that VEXIS has partnered with the leading contact center software manufacturers such as Convergys, Genesys and Avaya, and can offer you a platform that will meet your infrastructure requirements.
With all of the effort that goes into putting the right system architecture in place, the application architecture is often overlooked. However, the applications are where the additional value is truly added to your contact center solution. VEXIS deploys applications with a modular, state driven design that isolates the different application components from one another. This approach results in a lower total cost of ownership and allows you to add new dialogs, apply new business rules and logic, and extend and integrate into new data sources and back office applications; in a way that is least disruptive to other areas of the existing application. In contrast, hard-coding the business logic and backend data transactions directly into the self service application significantly increases the costs and risks of ongoing application enhancements and virtually eliminates any portability.
Regardless of your platform, VEXIS will utilize the tools and methodologies described below to build applications that are truly extensible, portable, and scalable.
The VEXIS State Machine for Standardized and Flexible Applications
The VEXIS State Machine is a set of industry best practice programming standards that utilizes data driven applications and standardized reusable application modules. The heart of the VEXIS State machine is a state transition table that contains data that describes what state an IVR self service application will move to based on the current state and other inputs. Used in conjunction with Envoy® middleware, the VEXIS State Machine architecture allows the development and deployment of highly scalable and highly flexible IVR applications.
ENVOY® for Data and System Integration
ENVOY® is an extensible, standards-based middleware framework of data services that improves both the utilization and reach of backend applications and data for the corporate contact center and beyond. It supports efficient, consistent, high-quality service at every touchpoint, including the web. In addition to the data integration plug-ins, Envoy® also provides support for leading CTI systems and its modular design can be extended to support virtually any commercial or custom application.
V-tilities for Managing Application Business Rules
V-tilities is a web-based administration console that gives you the ability to self-administer and customize your applications. By giving you more control over the day to day management of your applications, the costs of ongoing application modifications by a third party are significantly reduced. The ASR Speech Administration Module allows you to modify speech recognition parameters to instantly fine-tune or correct problems with callers’ spoken input. A Caller Transfer Module provides instant access to transfer points within your IVR application, allowing you to route these exit points to other ACD groups, skills, or call centers. The DNIS Universal Gateway Routing Module supplies a comprehensive view into your IVR insert points, making it easy to point new and existing inbound phone numbers to different applications, or specific greetings and insert points within a single application. Finally, the IVR Message Administration Module allows you to self-administer your open hours, establish special holiday hours, and play special messages during maintenance windows.
Variplay for Managing System Prompts
Variplay is an application module developed by VEXIS Systems to increase the efficiency, expandability, and naturalness of the IVR voice. Most IVR platforms support the read-back of dynamic data through a fixed set of system prompts in multiple languages with either a male or female pre-recorded voice. Variplay takes this concept to the next level by integrating a dynamic, multi-language, multi-voice engine that allows for a natural, human-like dialog with your customers. Expanded set of system prompts and an intelligent prosody engine allows Variplay to read back dynamic data elements such as currency amounts, credit card numbers, ZIP codes, and dates with rising and falling intonation and appropriate pauses and hesitation. Variplay supports multiple languages and even multiple voices within a single language.
VEXIS empowers its customers with reliable and flexible contact center solutions that are ready to change and grow at the pace of your business.
Troubleshooting Tactics – Part 2
Brian Smith, Director of Strategic Initiatives
In a previous issue of the VEXIS Voice, I discussed some of the tactics for effective troubleshooting that we successfully employ at VEXIS Systems. Much of the process we use for solving problems was derived from “The 10 Step Universal Troubleshooting Process” by Steve Witt. Here are a few of the steps we discussed in the previous article:
- Make a Damage Control Plan
- Get a Complete and Accurate Symptom Description
- Reproduce the Symptom
Now, here are the key remaining steps in the troubleshooting process to ensure timely and accurate resolution of the issue:
Do The Appropriate Corrective Maintenance
At one time or another, most of us have spent hours narrowing a problem down to something that could have been corrected by general maintenance. A specification is appropriate corrective maintenance if:
- Company policy is that the action must be taken before returning the system to production mode.
- It’s likely to fix the problem, easy to do, and is a maintenance item.
- The manufacturer of the hardware or software component has advised that the maintenance be performed (through a service bulletin, patch, or service pack release) and the maintenance does not conflict or interfere with other components of the system.
Note that corrective maintenance is one of the few weapons we have against that scourge of troubleshooters, the intermittent problem. Often the best economical solution is to do all corrective maintenance, then observe the component over time to determine if the issue was corrected.
Narrow It Down to the Root Cause
Mathematics tells us the fastest way to find a single element in an ordered set is binary search. Binary search is the process of repeatedly ruling out half the remaining search area until the element is found. What makes the system you’re troubleshooting an ordered set is your knowledge of it, reinforced by manuals and documentation. It’s that knowledge that allows you to devise tests to split the search area in half. Below is a simple diagram of a binary search finding the violet component with only six tests:
Testing is the best predictor of customer satisfaction. If the symptom you obtained in step 2 and reproduced in step 4 is now gone, and no new problems have occurred, it’s likely the customer will be happy. Most customer relations horror stories occur when testing was inadequate or non-existent. When you test, ask these four quality questions:
- Did the symptom go away?
- Did the right symptom go away?
- Did I fix the right cause?
- Did I create any other problems?
Employing these steps when troubleshooting any issue can greatly reduce system downtime and keep your customers happy!
Envoy® Updates – The Power of Envoy® Server, the Dexterity of .NET
Richard Wolff, Director of Software R&D
There is no better way to put it than to just state “Envoy® Server now supports .NET programming!” Technically, Envoy® Server has been enhanced to host the Microsoft Common Language Runtime (CLR) but that way is just not as much fun to shout out loud.
Envoy® Server is a very efficient and scalable framework, but now that it has teamed up with .NET programming flexibility and simplicity, this combination is truly a powerful tool for data integration, consolidation, analysis, and transformation. The way Envoy® Server is designed, an incoming message request is routed to an Envoy® Server Plugin for processing. An Envoy® Server Plugin then does the work necessary to fulfill the request. Now that the Envoy® Server hosts the CLR, the Plugins can be either a .NET (managed code) or a standard (unmanaged code) Plugin. So pick the technology that meets your requirements AND fits your environment.
An Envoy® Server Plugin can fulfill a request in any number of ways; it can be as simple as writing data to a backend system such as a database or as complex as running a sophisticated algorithm that determines an optimal call routing plan and then also issuing the proper telephony commands to execute that plan. A Plugin can use the optimized resource management and connection pooling capabilities of Envoy® Server to call one or many backend systems. The power of hosting the Plugins in the Envoy® Server also allows the Plugin to operate synchronously, asynchronously or even as an event source such that the Plugin monitors some device or network object and then can notify one or many interested “parties” – event driven programs or displays. Whatever the business requirements call for, Envoy® Server is designed from the ground up to be a high performance conduit that can meet your demanding integration specification.
In addition to providing many options for developing business logic, Envoy® Server has a growing number of “out of the box” Plugins that can meet your needs immediately. Below is a short list of Plugins that are widely deployed technologies that would take your team thousands of hours to design, build, and test in order to provide a reliable integration point – technology interfaces that the Envoy® Framework already has built in and ready to deploy:
- Cisco ICM Plugin – provides efficient, redundant communication with the Cisco ICM Peripheral Gateway. Cisco ICM is a network-based software platform for managing a call center with distributed resources. Resources can range from a customer service center to a remote IVR system located in another time zone. Cisco ICM continuously monitors these resources as well as call activity, to control the distribution of calls and data across the enterprise. By using the Cisco ICM Plugin, you can effectively allow any new or legacy Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems to easily add communication capabilities with Cisco ICM.
- Envox CT Connect Plugin – provides robust connectivity, event notification, and call control capabilities of the Envox CT Connect and CIM Servers to any application. Envox CT Connect is a proven call center technology that provides solid compatibility with a wide array of telephony equipment. Call routing, call control, and call data integration – but all that power resides on the telephony network in the CT Connect Server – now Envoy® Server can bring that functionality to your data network. Use the critical call data in any application deployed to your network or even bring call control itself to any call center desktop!
- IBM WebSphere MQ Plugin – provides granular control of one or more remote and / or local queue managers. Many legacy data systems and modern middle tier business layer logic employ the reliability and diversity of IBM’s WebSphere; now those back end systems and solid business logic can be accessed and leveraged by using Envoy® Server to distribute access across the enterprise. Use any programming language to communicate with Envoy® Server and let the complexity of the MQ Series interface and API be handled by the IBM WebSphere MQ Plugin.
Take advantage of these and many other available Plugins for Envoy® Server or have the VEXIS Professional Services team build your own specific Plugins. The choice is yours and the possibilities are many, but using the core capabilities of the Envoy® Server not only ensures you start off with a solid foundation but also that you have a fantastic head start on the challenging projects you face. Couple the highly scalable, data centric Envoy® Framework with .NET ease of use and abundance of .NET resources to provide first class solutions to your end users.
Stay tuned for additional “Envoy® Updates” in the next issue of the VEXIS Voice.
Call Center Technology – Speech Enabling Your IVR…What’s That? You ‘Say’!
Andrea McCasland, Senior Project and Quality Assurance Manager
Looking to the New Year…WOW…2010!! It’s hard to believe it’s almost here already. So, how are those New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Now would be the time to resolve to enhance your IVR by implementing Speech Recognition technology. And, VEXIS has the experience to design a speech enabled IVR to fit your functional needs, as well as your budgetary needs. VEXIS has on staff one of the most experienced VUI Design Engineers in the industry. Along with that, the experience of our project teams from Developers to Project Managers to our Quality Assurance Analysts ensures your speech system will be just what you’ve “asked” for and then some!
You’ve probably heard some negativity about speech systems at some point in your technology career. Yes, they were very rudimentary at the beginning. Also, maybe the response seemed very robotic and not very friendly. Well, think back to the Atari games or even earlier than that, the old electronic game with the tanks and ping pong where the flashing ball didn’t even seem to be moving! Now, we have the Wii, Xbox 360; all kinds of hand held electronic games. Well, this is similar to the transition of the speech enabled IVR. Now they are more accurate, more conversational. Overall, the speech systems of today can be a great source for branding because they portray the “personality” of your Company. Is your Company’s personality formal or is it casual? Do you want your Company to reflect a fun personality such as in the gaming industry or a serious personality such as in the financial industry?
By now, you’re thinking, “Yeah, sure, I’ve used those systems and they don’t understand what I say and they never have the option I need. So, if it doesn’t work for me, what would it do for my customers and what would it do for my business?” That’s where the VEXIS experience comes into play and where tuning your speech system comes into play. But, we’ve jumped ahead. Let’s go back to “what would it do for your customers and what would it do for your business.” When implemented right and tuned properly, your customers will have a positive experience and your business will have a positive impact to the bottom line. Have we got you thinking about it now?
Next question you’d ask is “Why would I implement a speech system?” Although there are many, here are a couple reasons for you to consider.
1. Your DTMF application may be keeping customers in your IVR a bit too long. This affects customer satisfaction and equates to real dollars to your business. This is a one-two punch: 1) customer satisfaction impact can cause you to lose customers; 2) keeping customers in your IVR too long causes higher costs per call in hardware and software costs. Both are real dollars to the bottom line.
2. You may be able to expand your automated offerings by going to a speech enabled IVR. An example of this would be a change in personal information such as address, including the street name and city, not just the numeric values! You also could validate customers by having them speak their name or other validation criteria such as Mother’s maiden name. This would decrease “talk time” for your Customer Service Representative (CSR), especially if you used your new CTI application with screen pop with a validation flag to the CSR desktop (See the article in the July issue of the VEXIS Voice, Call Center Technology – So What!?! Let’s Talk Benefits! Let’s Talk CTI!)
So, now you’ve decided you want to look into speech enabling your IVR and you and your VEXIS Account team have completed all the pertinent documents such as a Statement of Work. What’s first? First, VEXIS will perform an on-site discovery session. We’ll start with the goals you’d like for your speech system. We’ll look at the current functionality in your IVR and where speech will have a marked improvement over DTMF. We’ll collect and review the feedback you receive from your CSRs, call center supervisors, and customers. Finally, we’ll listen side by side to calls with your CSRs, so that we understand your callers and your business practices from the inside out.
Once we complete the on-site discovery, our experienced team will regroup back at VEXIS and formulate a General Solutions Design (GSD) that will document your speech system and functionality to be delivered. Upon your review and approval of the GSD, VEXIS will document the design in a Detailed Design Document (DDS) and then development is underway! There are many other tasks following the VEXIS project methodology by all team members from document development to application development to testing to deployment.
I would encourage you to call your VEXIS Account Consultant to start the process for your discovery session today! Team up with VEXIS to start the New Year with a solid way to add real dollars to your Company’s bottom line!
This newsletter is designed to provide you with useful support, technical and key topics of interest to you in a fast and efficient manner.
Let us know what you’re interested in seeing future issues. The goal is to make the results you get reading this as worthwhile as possible for your time.
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